The Gibson Martini is generally made with gin (or vodka), vermouth and a few pickled onions referred to as pearl onions.
In the great debate as to how to garnish a martini – what type of olive, stuffed or plain, how many – the Gibson, known for pearl onions, has been somewhat obscured. While originally branded for the association with Gibson Gin, the Gibson is now identified for those cute little white things regardless of the booze used.
First, while martinis are found all over film, books and TV (think James Bond), the poor Gibson is kind of obscure. Best I could come up with was the occasional drink by Roger Sterling in Mad Men, Cary Grant in North by Northwest, a Frasier episode (Stoli Gibson with three pearl onions) and not much else.
What I find fascinating about the Gibson, are the stories about how the drink came about. I found three.
The most common one is linked to the 1930s and Charles Dana Gibson, the illustrator known for the Gibson Girl images. As the story goes, he challenged a bartender named Charlie Connolly at New York’s Players Club to create a “different drink.” The result was garnishing a martini with cocktail onions that became know as the Gibson.
Nah, I’m not buying it. Sounds like it came from some old school press agent.
The second one goes back 40 years prior to this. Mr. Walter D K Gibson is supposed to have had the first martini named in his honor at the Bohemian Club in San Francisco. Apparently, this gentleman didn’t like the way they prepared gin martinis so he specified the brand and had them add pearl onions. Also, he believed eating onions would prevent colds.
I’m not buying this one either.
The story I subscribe to came from a good barman friend and we all know that the stories told over a bar are more accurate than anything on the Internet, not to mention other sources.
As Adam D. tells it, a savvy businessman and banker in the 50’s and 60s often found himself out with clients for the proverbial three-martini lunch. Unable to function during and after the meal, he had the bartender serve him cold water so he could remain sober while his clients got shit-faced. The cocktail onion was used as garnish so his beverage could be distinguished from the others. The banker’s name was Gibson.
Now, there’s a story I can believe.